The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Friday, April 27, 2012

Scale-Craft OO Decals and Drawings 101

Regular readers know that I am fascinated by new bits of American OO history that come up. And those bits can be unexpected in origin, the recent arrival of some vintage Scale-Craft decals being a great example of this.

I have a few S-C kits but looking back in them now I only found one example of an early kit complete with decals and the drawings. I have included that drawing in this first scan of freight car lettering plans, the reefer. These drawings were shipped with the decals and cars, and I believe all date to the pre-war era.

Scale-Craft offered decals for as long as they made OO equipment, from 1937 into the early 1950s. At the end of production they were sold with standard Champion (HO/OO) decals. Originally though, the decals were specially made and shipped out in a smaller envelope, seen below. Decals in this small envelope can be dated to before 1940 from the Scale-Models, Inc. notation (with the full address on the following version of the envelope in Chicago). Also notable is this size of envelope is small enough to fit in their early style boxes. (More on S-C boxes here.)

The text of this first example (I believe the first style of packaging for their decals) emphasizes that these are “face down” decals. I have not tried to use these but they are not like the decals I have ever used before and are most likely unusable today. The adhesive surface is on the outside of the decal, and when you look at the decal it is a reverse image. You place it on the car rather like a dry transfer, but wet as it is a decal, if that makes sense.

This is what the Canadian National locomotive face down set looks like today on the decal side of the paper. On the reverse side of the paper the same basic thing is printed so that you have a way to place the decal. You slide the paper off after you place the decal. I had never even heard of this system before reading the envelopes. It may have worked OK when the decals are fresh but a bit of humidity in storage and they would be ruined. This system did not last.

Some of the decals I have in this size envelope are standard decals that are also clearly made before the move to Libertyville, such as this example. Of these that I have they mostly look usable, a testament to the change of decal type being a great move. These decals look just like the decals used today. I have other, similar envelopes with the full address but for face down decals; they must have had some residual stock of the older decals to work through. (See this article for all five types of envelopes)

In 1940 S-C moved their operations to Libertyville, IL. The decals made after that date in the prewar era are in a larger envelope and are marked “Designed and Manufactured by Wm. K. Walthers, Inc., for Scale-Craft & Co.” The envelope they are in won’t fit in the older, small style S-C boxes, which may have reflected a change in box style at that point (see this article for a bit more on that) or may have reflected that the decals were simply shipped separately. Of the sets of this type that I have now most are very likely still usable. Those I have tried to use needed a very long soaking time for the decals to release from the backing paper but still mostly worked fine after all the years in storage. A good product!

I also found the drawings shipped with the decals to be particularly fascinating paper items as they are clearly of S-C models. The two 4-6-0 models here for example are simplified but unmistakable in origin. As usual, click on any photo for a better view.

To close out this article we have two caboose drawings. Again, they are clearly Scale-Craft cabooses (note the window sizes compared to Lionel, for example) and reflect how they visualized the cars at their best. The car numbers I assume are representational only!

I will wait for the right projects before I attempt to make use of any of these (and then probably only the incomplete/partially used sets), but actual OO sized decals will be a great change of pace from cobbling  together HO sets.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

ABA Schorr OO F-3s Arrive for the Orient

Here we have a set of three locomotives that was years in the making for my layout. It is a trio with a story.

These classic American OO models were produced domestically after WWII by Fred Schorr, with a later run of castings sold by Ultimate. A set of the rough Ultimate castings may be seen here; the model is sand cast bronze.

Fred Schorr as a very enthusiastic OO gauger, and not long ago I was able to post some photos of F-3 models on his personal layout. Those models, decorated for his Yorkville and Western, may be seen here and are worth a quick look in relation to the second photo below (click on either photo for a better view).

The second photo I took right around 1980 at my home layout of that time frame. I purchased these two models from Al Spice, who ran Ultimate Screw Machine and also dealt in some used OO. These were my first two OO diesels and came to me with a few quirks. First, the A unit motor was shot and there was a cracked gear on one of the axles. Oh, and the flexible shafts between the trucks were also shot. So on both models I worked out universals from Athearn parts and in the case of the A unit put in the big can motor.

Turning to that B-unit though, it clearly came to me with a drive in it that was not the one set up with the model originally. The first big clue is it had a working headlight, which seemed pretty redundant in the case of a B unit! The floor had been fit to go in an A unit. Also it ran a bit faster than the A unit that came with it, which was a problem when trying to run them together.

In any case, when I did the repainting way back then I did not know they were from the personal layout of Fred Schorr and also in a paint scheme that was not his standard paint scheme. I remember at the time thinking to myself why in the world would anyone put the decals on the “chicken wire” area? (And how about that engine number, 4567?). So I repainted away and did a nice job overall, with care to mask in the open areas in the chicken wire to match scale drawings. The original A-B pair and drive can be seen here in more detail. Today though, I would not have done that repaint job, the models themselves were in pretty sharp shape. But you can't go back in time.

Back to the top photo again, those two models built by Fred Schorr are the trailing models. I made a dummy frame for the B-unit a few years ago (with nice Schorr trucks off eBay) and very recently re-painted a lead A unit that completed the ABA set.

The second A unit when it came to me was decorated for the layout of another OOldtimer, David Sacks. In its case it had been stored in an unfavorable location for years (decals shot) and the drive (made from Hobbytown HO parts) was completely unusable. Repaint it? In this case I said yes as it really did not look very good at all and to make it look decent again would require a full repaint.

I was able with little modification to get the drive that came to me with the B unit in that A unit, and the trio runs nicely! Of course, to run the same speed is the best, but if they don’t match running the faster unit in the lead seems to not stress the drives too much. The Sacks model will be in the lead for many laps around the layout I expect.

Power wise the combination will pull more cars than I can run on my layout and I like how they came out. Someday perhaps a bigger layout will put them to the test. But for now the combination looks great and will be enjoyed.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

American OO for 1940: Part IV, Layouts and Features

There were more than a few individuals that had were very active in OO, buying the products of the day and putting them to good use, and over the course of 1940 we see a good cross section of those enthusiasts.

Going alphabetically, first up we have H. L. “Red” Adams. An early OO manufacturer and the original maker of the Scale-Craft 4-6-2, he has been mentioned in this site a number of times with this article probably being the most extensive, on his early adventures in OO and his layout as of 1939.

Before looking at his layout in 1940 I would like to first highlight his very interesting article on making boilers by sand casting, featured in The Model Craftsman in January of 1940. The article itself lays out the process of making the pattern for a bronze locomotive boiler well (he was speaking from experience!). A quick quote:
I am in favor of cast superstructures rather than built-up ones because for one thing they are heavier and stronger, and another I believe they are easier to make even for one engine; if you build more than one of the same type the work is almost half. Let me show you how I made up the pattern and core-box for my OO gauge Mt-5 Southern Pacific mountain type.
The photo reproduced here is of the finished model, and in the article may be found more drawings and photos of the process of making the boiler. Seeing the engine I certainly hope that a couple of these are out there somewhere, it is a beauty.

His layout story may be found in the Sept. 40 issue of MC with photos and a track plan. The track plan is the same as featured in another article on his layout as of 1941; see this article for more. As I have mentioned in other articles on Adams, I love his writing style, and he does not disappoint in this article. He notes that
I have always envied those fortunate model railroaders with ample space to operate their systems. Being a “renter” instead of one who owns his own home, I have been forced by circumstances to keep my layout reasonably compact so that my share of a small apartment basement doesn’t encroach upon the neighbor who lives upstairs. There are plenty of layouts that are smaller than mine, so when I mention that my overall dimensions are 14’ long, 8’6” wide, with track 41” above the floor, don’t think for a minute that this is the minimum by any means.
He describes the layout as being “semi-portable.” The structures are all HO structures but they are “close enough” for him, and the layout also it should be noted runs on 24 volts DC, which lines up with the early Scale-Craft motors. These photos show a glimpse of his realistic scenery with an S-C 4-6-0 and one of his passenger trains.

As is also clear from the text, Adams was a big fan of passenger equipment, and his mainline had a minimum radius of 39.5” to accommodate them easily. Articles by Adams on passenger cars may be found in the April and December issues of MC. This article already posted to American OO Today quotes the April article, and this article has more from of Adams from December issue.

Next up is E. H. Bessey. As noted in the previous installment of this series he launched a line of OO freight cars in 1940, outlined further in this article with quotes from the January and February issues of The Model Railroader. But there is more to be found, with the July issue of MR featuring a layout plan that was designed for him by Linn Westcott. What they requested of the design gives a few insights into OO at the time. “We have in mind the type of road that runs from the mountains in which there are mines, down through the agricultural section into the industrial places. We consider our railroad to be a branch of the Southern Pacific, and will use 26” radius curves.” Then in the December issue we find this nice photo of his prize winning layout. It is not at all the same layout as in the Westcott article but as it notes in the caption was built in five weeks and won a first prize for Bessey. He was getting the word out on OO out west to be sure.

A scratch built locomotive and bobber caboose by Edmund Collins were also featured in the 1939 series. Two more of his camelback locomotive models (a Mogul and an Atlantic) were featured in Miniature Railroading for Feb/Mar 1940 (including one on the cover of the issue), and the June 1940 issue of The Model Craftsman has article on making that bobber caboose. In the February 1940 issue of MC may be found a photo of his display layout (at a bit of a distance) at the Lehigh Model Railroad Society annual show. Also in the May issue it is reported that his Reading 4-4-2 camelback was first prize winner in OO at the Philadelphia Model Show. This photo of that model is from the Feb/Mar issue of Miniature Railroading. Other OO winners were Walter S. Reynolds (second prize) for an N&W class A articulated locomotive and E. B. Hansbury, Jr. (third prize) for “nine assorted hand-built cars.” Another model by Hansbury from 1936 may be seen in this article.

Another magazine out in this time frame was Model Railroaders’ Digest. They had an article in their April issue with a number of interesting details on the OO gauge layout of Earle Gardner, which is described in this prior article. Gardner was co-founder of GarGraves track, a line that is very familiar to in the hi-rail O gauge community to this day.

The Wood Acres Route of Richard Houghton is featured in The Model Railroader for December of 1940. Two photos are included with the article, which focuses on his scenic techniques. But it is OO to be sure and a real live layout! Note the Scale-Craft 4-6-0 and the bridges in this view.

Bill Johann has been mentioned many times in this website (this article being a favorite of mine) and was mentioned in the January issue of The Model Railroader. At this time they published a regular feature called “Along the Division” with news from layouts and clubs, a feature that I will reference more in coming years in this series. The mention is brief, only noting that “The OO gauge Watchung Valley is brass hatted by William Johann,” but is notable as I believe it is the first mention of him in a hobby publication.

Finally, a model by M. W. Mather was featured in Miniature Railroading for October 1940. The model is a scratch built Erie K-5 Pacific. A real beauty, one has to hope it is out there somewhere in good shape still.

To close this look at 1940, while there were some very devoted enthusiasts in for the scale (many of the most die-hard “OOldtimers,” who have now nearly all passed on, got into OO before the war) my overall feeling is that American OO was a scale slowing down. For small scales HO was where the action really was.

What will 1941 bring to OO? Check back in a month or so for a look at the last pre-war year for American OO gauge.

Return to Beginning of 1940 Series

Continue to 1941 Series